Tapas in St. Louis

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    Balaban's
    A homage to the late, iconic Central West End restaurant. Owner Steve McIntyre, a long-time owner of the original Balaban's, has fashioned this new edition as a more casual restaurant serving mostly small plates. These include both classic Balaban's dishes - cucumber bisque, beef Wellington - and familiar bistro fare. The best bet might be the flatbread pizza, especially the version with spinach, fontina cheese and caramelized onion. This Balaban's also sells retail wine and offers carryout meals.
    BARcelona Tapas Restaurant
    One of the St. Louis area's first Spanish tapas restaurants, BARcelona specializes in small plates that pack a big punch. Housemade sangria, quick service and a festive atmosphere make this place a favorite among the happy-hour crowd.
    Bici Cafe
    A neighborhood restaurant with a menu overseen by (very) prominent - and (very) busy - local chef Mike Johnson. Dishes draw inspiration from Mediterranean cuisines, not only European, but also North African and Middle Eastern. Crab cakes are spiced with za'atar and served with a harissa aioli; falafel is served in bite-size "popcorn" form. The menu is dominated by small plates, but there are also sandwiches, soups and flatbread pizzas, as well as a few pasta dishes and traditional entrées. Weather permitting, the patio is a popular seat.
    Danno's American Pub
    Danno's American Pub is a bit off the beaten path for the average city-bound 'hood rat, but it's also a good reminder why venturing out of the city is a worthwhile exercise. Danno's is exactly what you expect from a classic American bar, except this one is tended by an adventurous mixologist, not just someone who knows what goes in a cranberry-vodka. Danno's casual atmosphere and comfy club chairs lend a relaxed air that facilitates anonymity -- something that's hard to come by in the big small town that is St. Louis proper.
    Erato
    What began as a wine bar has become one of the more intriguing establishments in the metro east, with a topnotch wine list and beer selection and a tiny kitchen that has been home to such talented chefs as Kevin Willmann (now of Farmhaus) and Jonathan Olson. The menu features thoughtful, often inventive, preparations that utilize as much local product as possible.
    The amazing, authentic Italian food that you have come to know and love from J.F. Sanfilippo's downtown has arrived in the Chesterfield Valley! Filippo's Italian Kitchen and Bar combines the best menu options from the downtown location with a taste of West County nightlife.
    Guido's Pizzeria & Tapas
    Rome? Or Madrid? At Guido's you don't have to decide. This Hill institution serves tasty Italian fare, including one of the city's best thin-crust pies, and authentic, knockout Spanish tapas. While Guido's has no pretensions of being a tapas bar in the Spanish sense, owner and chef Miguel Carretero and his parents Segundo (front of house, including wine) and Genoveva (executive chef) hail from Madrid, and Guido's tapas are as close to the real deal as you can find in this town: soul-satisfying albóndigas (meatballs), spicy patatas bravas (sautéed potatoes in a picante sauce), the striking charbroiled squid dish calamares a la plancha and more.
    Ice Kitchen
    True to its chilly blue decor, the Ice Kitchen strives for a polar level of cool. Physically, this bar may be located in the heart of Westport, but the black-clad, uber chic patrons might make you feel like you're stuck in the Matrix. The menu consists of small and large plate "continental fusion" cuisine, including Peruvian, Asian and Greek-inspired tapas, and the bar boasts the largest martini and vodka catalog in St. Louis, with over 100 vodkas to choose from. By night, this young urban professional scene becomes a raging hip-hop and R&B dance party fueled by live DJ sets.
    La Gra Italian Tapas
    An upscale-casual Italian eatery in Dogtown, La Gra Italian Tapas specializes in small plates, pizzas and pasta. While the term tapas usually sends palates to the western side of the Mediterranean with its Spanish olives, seafood and cheeses, the dishes at La Gra maintain the European light-bite fare with an Italian flair, such as their housemade bruschetta - tomatoes, garlic and capers served chilled on a crostini - or arancini, balls of rice breaded, fried and stuffed with veggies and mozzarella. La Gra's pizzas are Sicilian style, thick and rectangular, covered in sauce and different types of cheeses, including the regular Italian varieties and the familiar St. Louis fave. Various specialty toppings include chicken spiedini, Cajun shrimp, barbecue pulled pork and the usual meats and veggies. Diners can also special order their own pasta combinations, such as linguine in a garlic-cream sauce with grilled chicken or fettuccine pesto with scallops. La Gra also offers larger entrées for hungrier patrons, including a pork chop Marsala or beef medallions with peppers, onions and gorgonzola. Reservations are suggested during busier dining hours.
    CLOSED A handsome new space along Forest Park Southeast's resurgent Grove, Mia Rosa offers cicchetti - essentially, the Italian equivalent of tapas. Both cold and hot cicchetti are available. The latter are mostly smaller portions of familiar entrées, from osso buco to duck breast in a red-wine sauce. Monkfish wrapped in prosciutto is a standout, and the bruschetta of the day makes a fine accompaniment to a glass of red wine from the modest list. A raw bar, flatbread pizzas and an array of soups and salads are also available. At $3 each, desserts present a good value.
    Mojo Tapas Restaurant & Bar
    A large, stylish space serving small plates in the contemporary mold: Ahi tuna, sliders and pork belly all make an appearance on the lengthy menu. Owner and chef Eric Erhard brings Caribbean and Latin American influences to his dishes, which include jerk chicken kebabs in a key lime-yogurt sauce and fried calamari given a welcome lime twist. The "Sexy Gritz" might be embarrassing to order, but paired with shrimp and thick slices of garlic in a fiery sauce, they make for a tasty repast. Dessert includes a tribute to the Chipwich, the ice-cream sandwich made with chocolate-chip cookies.
    Morgan Le Fay's Tapas Bar and Martini Lounge
    Morgan Le Fay's Tapas Bar and Lounge offers a comfortable and contemporary place to socialize with your friends or hold a business meeting. The interior features several areas to -- quite literally -- lounge in, with more than a dozen board games scattered about, just in case. The bar stocks twelve varieties of beer, and the kitchen is known for its Reuben sandwiches and its "American tapas." Lunch fare includes sandwiches, soups and salads, but dinner is when the tapas come out to play. Options run the gamut from "kitten fish and puppies" (small catfish filets and hush puppies - ha ha) to skewers to pork, chicken or beef sliders. Nightly drink specials draw a variety of customers -- from college students (Monday) to teachers (Thursdays). There's live music on Friday and Saturday night.
    Mosaic
    Operating out of a large space on Washington Avenue, Mosaic offers an upscale (read: dress to impress) atmosphere. The "modern fusion" menu means these are not the typical tapas that one may be accustomed to. Options include herb gnocchi, limoncello mussels and lobster-and-crawfish risotto. Mosaic also has late-night lounge hours for those looking for an after-dinner drink.
    Mosaic
    One 19 North Tapas & Wine Bar
    This Kirkwood restaurant covers two of St. Louis' favorite recent dining trends: small plates and wine bars. Unlike most "tapas" restaurants locally, some dishes here show Iberian influence, such as grilled asparagus with melted Manchego cheese and romesco sauce. In general chef Christopher Delgado's kitchen shows strong technique and careful attention to detail, as evidenced by beautifully grilled lamb chops in a cucumber-yogurt sauce, or a rich, perfectly seasoned crawfish étouffée. For a self-proclaimed wine bar, though, the narrow selection is in need of attention, given the preponderance of labels that can be found at most area grocery stores.
    Robust
    An elegant new wine bar in downtown Webster, Robust offers a wide selection of wines by the bottler or the glass. The list is categorized by the wine's profile - that is, robust or generous reds, crisp or luscious whites - rather than varietal or region, and each dish on the menu is matched to a specific profile or two. That menu features small dishes, most of which are meant to be shared: cheeses, cured meats and flatbreads. Items that sound like traditional entrées (roasted chicken, flatiron steak) are served in small portions.
    Sanctuaria
    Sanctuaria’s tapas-style menu, based on the flavors of Latin and South America, includes a modern twist and changes with the seasons. Produce and meats are often sourced locally, some from their own garden. The art of mixology is alive and well here — all cocktails are expertly handcrafted and served with a flourish. Sanctuaria’s Cocktail club features a Club Menu of 150 cocktails that's been nominated for World’s Best Cocktail Menu at Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards in 2011. Even the art is big - there are several 17th and 18th century pieces of art from churches around the world and prayers over 450 years old are painted on metal and in the main dining room.

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